Apology of the Japanese Catholic Bishops to Those Affected by Hansen’s Disease

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Apology of the Japanese Catholic Bishops to Those Affected by Hansen’s Disease We, the bishops of the Catholic […]

Apology of the Japanese Catholic Bishops to Those Affected by Hansen’s Disease

We, the bishops of the Catholic Church in Japan, apologize to the people who have recovered from Hansen’s disease, to their families, and to those who have already been called to heaven.

In 1996, when the Leprosy Prevention Act was abolished, the government was held responsible for damages by a decision of the Kumamoto District Court, and compensation was given in 2001 to former patients. When the Study Council on Hansen’s Disease in its 2005 final report summarized the actual conditions and causes of harm and the measures for preventing their recurrence, the bishops did not issue an apology to those who had recovered and their families. Today, we express our remorse that it has taken until today to make that apology.

In 1943, the drug Promin was developed that made Hansen’s disease an easily healed condition. In 1956, the Rome Declaration on patient protection and reintegration called for an end to discriminatory laws such as the Leprosy Prevention Act. Nevertheless, Japan’s national policy did not change and patients were kept in isolation throughout their lives.

Japan’s bishops did not oppose the isolation and destruction of patients, did not support patients’ rights to compensation and restoration, did not recognize that our failure added to their suffering, and did not stand with those whose rights needed protection. Words do not suffice to express the deep remorse we feel for adding to the suffering of those patients and their families.

Now that so many of those patients and their family members have been admitted to nursing care, their increasing age makes further delay unforgiveable.

Therefore, we, the Catholic Bishops of Japan, recognize our responsibility in not protecting the natural rights of Hansen’s disease survivors, their families and those who have already been called to heaven. We offer our sincere apology.

We promise from our hearts to not repeat that sin again, but as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ to cherish all people and to never again fail to respect human rights.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
July 10, 2019   

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